Climate Dynamics

, Volume 46, Issue 5–6, pp 1943–1952 | Cite as

Karakorum temperature out of phase with hemispheric trends for the past five centuries

  • Muhammad Usama ZafarEmail author
  • Moinuddin Ahmed
  • Mukund Palat Rao
  • Brendan M. Buckley
  • Nasrullah Khan
  • Muhammad Wahab
  • Jonathan Palmer


A systematic increase in global temperature since the industrial revolution has been attributed to anthropogenic forcing. This increase has been especially evident over the Himalayas and Central Asia and is touted as a major contributing factor for glacier mass balance declines across much of this region. However, glaciers of Pakistan’s Karakorum region have shown no such decline during this time period, and in some instances have exhibited slight advance. This discrepancy, known as the ‘Karakorum Anomaly’, has been attributed to unusual amounts of debris covering the region’s glaciers; the unique seasonality of the region’s precipitation; and localized cooling resulting from increased cloudiness from monsoonal moisture. Here we present a tree-ring based reconstruction of summer (June–August) temperature from the Karakorum of North Pakistan that spans nearly five centuries (1523–2007 C.E.). The ring width indices are derived from seven collections (six—Picea smithiana and one—Pinus gerardiana) from middle-to-upper timberline sites in the northern Karakorum valleys of Gilgit and Hunza at elevations ranging from 2850 to 3300 meters above mean sea level (mean elevation 3059 m asl). The reconstruction passes all traditional calibration–verification schemes and explains 41 % of the variance of the nested Gilgit–Astore instrumental station data (Gilgit—1454 m asl, 1951–2009; Astore—2167 m asl, 1960–2013). Importantly, our results indicate that Karakorum temperature has remained decidedly out of phase with hemispheric temperature trends for at the least the past five centuries, highlighting the long-term stability of the Karakorum Anomaly, and suggesting that the region’s temperature and cloudiness are contributing factors to the anomaly.


Karakorum Anomaly Temperature Dendroclimatology High Asia Glaciers 



We express gratitude towards the people of Gilgit and Hunza valleys who assisted with the fieldwork for this project. We thank Dr. Joerg Schaefer (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) for insightful comments that improved the manuscript. We also thank Dr. Paolo Cherubini (Swiss Federal Research Institute) for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We are grateful to the Pakistan Meteorological Department for providing climate data. We also express thanks to Dr. Andrew Bell (New York University), Dr. Sonali McDermid (New York University), and Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq for sharing climate data and thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions that substantially improved this manuscript. The authors acknowledge funding 20 - 1806/R AND D/10. 5149.IT from the Higher Education Commission, Government of Pakistan. Funding for B.M. Buckley and M.P. Rao came from the support of the US National Science Foundation (AGS 13-03976 and AGS 12-03818). Lamont Contribution No. 7904.

Supplementary material

382_2015_2685_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18193 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Muhammad Usama Zafar
    • 1
    • 7
    Email author
  • Moinuddin Ahmed
    • 1
  • Mukund Palat Rao
    • 2
    • 3
  • Brendan M. Buckley
    • 2
  • Nasrullah Khan
    • 4
  • Muhammad Wahab
    • 5
    • 8
  • Jonathan Palmer
    • 6
  1. 1.Laboratory of Dendrochronology and Plant Ecology, Department of BotanyFederal Urdu University of Arts, Science and TechnologyKarachiPakistan
  2. 2.Tree Ring Laboratory, Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryColumbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Environmental ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Laboratory of Plant Ecology Department of BotanyUniversity of MalakandKhyber PakhtunkhwaPakistan
  5. 5.Center for Plant Sciences and BiodiversityUniversity of SwatKhyber PakhtunkhwaPakistan
  6. 6.Climate Change Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  7. 7.Department of Environmental ScienceBahauddin Zakariya UniversityMultanPakistan
  8. 8.State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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